Every year, Sarasota’s culinary scene grows with new and exciting offerings, but over the past year, it has soared to new heights with fancy food, epic sandwiches and overall good vibes. Check out our list of the best new restaurants in the region.
6644 Gateway Ave., Sarasota, (941) 921-3133, kolucan.com
Chefs Gino Calleja and Jose Rojas have combined their shared Mexican heritage and culinary prowesses to bring upscale Mexican cuisine to Sarasota, and the result is divine. A fried whole snapper dish, called huachinango a la Veracruz, makes for a lively-looking plate that tastes incredible, with crispy skin and expertly seasoned meat. Some dishes are spicier than others, so ask your server for guidance if you’re sensitive to heat.
Inside Calusa Brewing, 5377 McIntosh Road, Sarasota, (941) 777-5220, pig.fish
Rumors about chef-activist Steve Phelps’ sandwich shop circulated for years—and finally, they’ve become reality. Phelps and business partner Anand Pallegar have teamed up with the Calusa Brewing guys to pair awesome food with awesome beer. The signature PigFish sandwich is made with seared kanpachi (yellowtail), crispy pork belly, green tomato relish, shaved cabbage and finished with bacon tartar sauce. Every sandwich on the menu is both wonderful and enormous, but please save room for a side of hush puppies, which Phelps has managed to make better than the industry standard (as usual).
30 S. Lemon Ave., Sarasota, (941) 279-2999, besosrq.com
Brought to you by the owners of State Street Eating House, BESO offers the best riff on Spanish tapas Sarasota has ever seen. And much like its sister restaurant, the nightlife vibes are impeccable. The cocktails are an unexpected delight, most made with various amari (herbal amaro liqueurs like Aperol or vermouth), which make for a unique flavor profile you can sip all night long.
Hong BBQ & Hot Pot
445 Cortez Road W., Bradenton, (941) 213-9972, honghotpot.com
This lively hot pot spot is nestled in the quiet corner of a shopping plaza on Cortez Road. Driving by, you would never know what goodies it stores inside. The decor is vibrant, the servers are friendly and everyone is having the best time. For hot pot, select from eight different broths and a seemingly infinite array of proteins, vegetables and starches, and prepare to have the time of your life. Korean-style barbecue is also available and only an additional $5 charge to the original $30.99 all-you-can-eat hot pot price.
Inside Art Ovation Hotel, 1255 N. Palm Ave., Sarasota, (941) 413-7425, tzevasarasota.com
The success of a hotel restaurant hinges on exceptional food. Chef Ken Shiro Lumpkin provides just that, with dishes inspired by the Mediterranean and Middle East. The lamb shashlik (kebab) is a must-order: Tender lamb bites are skewered and served over a bed of fragrant, sweet and savory rice. To make things even better, Tzeva offers happy hour from 5 to 7 p.m. daily, with all small plates that cost $10.
Palm Avenue Deli
1297 N. Palm Ave., Sarasota, (941) 263-3742, palmavenuedeli.com
Yet another hit from the owners of Kojo and Speaks Clam Bar, Palm Avenue Deli (pictured at top) marries classic Jewish deli food with a ’50s diner feel. Stop in for breakfast and order a bagel with whitefish salad or a good old-fashioned schmear. For lunch, try the Rueben sandwich, made with housemade corned beef, sliced thin and piled high.
Boo’s Ice House & Dog Bar
1314 10th St., Sarasota, (941) 960-2669, boosdogbar.com
Located in the Rosemary District, Boo’s Ice House & Dog Bar is a howling good time, where guests come for the puppies but stay for the pizza. The menu has a distinct dog theme with items like a “NeoPAWlitan” pizza and elote street corn puppy bites. The specialty cocktails are great, too. We love the “PAWloma,” made with tequila and grapefruit. Come with or without your pup and leave with a big smile on your face.
Owen’s Fish Camp Lakewood Ranch
6516 University Parkway, Sarasota, (941) 951-5052, owensfishcamp.com
Brought to you by the Caragiulo family, Owen’s Fish Camp Lakewood Ranch is yet another standout from the all-star restaurateurs. While the original downtown location is known for its quaint charm and beautiful foliage, the Lakewood Ranch is shiny and new. And with that newness come never-before-seen menu items like a half-rack of root beer ribs, chicken and dumplings and amazing pimento cheese biscuits. If you love the original, you’ll likely love this one, too.
1289 N. Palm Ave., Sarasota, (941) 536-9717, barhana.com
Brought to you by the owners of Kojo, located right next door, comes Bar Hana. This tiki-inspired bar and restaurant features juicy cocktails paired with pan-Asian bites with a Polynesian influence. The interior has a hip feel, with a sleek, black-tiled bar anchoring the space, contrasted by natural tones from rattan-lined walls. Try the “Scarlett Macaw” cocktail made with cachaça, apertivo, vanilla and pineapple for an instant escape to a tropical island.
1001 Cocoanut Ave., Sarasota, (941) 212-2622, turmericsarasota.com
Located on the corner 10th Street and Cocoanut Avenue, Turmeric revitalizes the Indian food scene in Sarasota. Warm aromatic spices permeate the dining room with hints of cinnamon, clove and cardamom hanging in the air as dishes pass through. Start your meal with a mocktail from the restaurant’s extensive list or grab something with higher octane if you’re in the mood for a little more fun. We love the sham savera for dinner, made with paneer (house-made cheese) dumplings in a warm tomato sauce.
Rocco’s Tacos & Tequila Bar
243 N. Cattleman Road, Sarasota, (941) 477-8226, roccostacos.com
With all the hype surrounding Rocco’s Tacos opening, we were worried the new restaurant at University Town Center might not live up to the hoopla. But we were pleased to be proven wrong as we sampled a menu which showcases well-worn favorites like tacos, burritos, enchiladas and quesadillas. Be sure to order at least one taco, made with a fresh corn tortilla that will surprise even the harshest critic. And with more than 300 tequilas to choose from, you’re sure to find an exceptional cocktail to start the night off right.
2085 Siesta Drive, #3, Sarasota, (941) 706-1460, wineshopandkitchen.com
At Malmosto, come for the wine but stay for the food. The wine shop offers plenty of options to take home, but if you leave too soon, you’ll miss out on Andrea Bozzolo’s masterful cuisine, all made in an imported oven. While his pizza and wine are a match made in heaven, we also love the short ribs, or anything from the salumi list. Fall in love with an unexpected glass of wine that will keep you coming back again and again.
816 Manatee Ave., Bradenton, (941) 201-4950, oscura.live
Part live music venue, part event space and part café, Oscura offers a taste of everything, depending on the experience you’re looking for. While the concept isn’t brand new, the space in historic downtown Bradenton is. Check out Oscura’s calendar of events for a lively punk show, but don’t forget to return the following day for a taste of its simple yet inspired menu. Ricotta toast is topped with homemade jam and pistachio brittle and chicken salad gets a makeover with salsa macha (a Mexican chili crisp), fried shallots and pickled cucumbers.
Florence and the Spice Boys
4990 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, (941) 405-3890
Modern Middle Eastern fare finds a seat at the table at Florence and the Spice Boys, which opened in December in The Landings shopping plaza. The decor matches the food—bright and colorful—and we recommend tucking into the chicken shawarma for a flavorful bite that ticks all the boxes.